Las Herederas (The Heiresses)
Sadly, if someone were to ask for a list of the best films from Paraguay it would likely be a difficult task even for some Spanish-language film aficionados. Hopefully, this changes with the coming of Las herederas (The Heiresses), the debut film from writer/director Marcelo Martinessi, which opens in competition at Berlinale 2018.
On the surface, the story seems simple enough. Chela (the splendid Ana Brun in her first performance on film) and Chiquita, aka Chiqui (Margarita Irún), are a seemingly happy middle-aged lesbian couple, whose lives change when Chiqui goes to jail for fraud. As the narrative unfolds, it is revealed that the extravagant house where they have been living belongs solely to the quiet and reserved Chela. Once her partner is behind bars and she meets the sensual Angy (Ana Ivanova), Chela begins a journey of self-discovery and awakening that opens her up to the possibility a more fulfilled existence.
The theme of imprisonment is ever-present and at times perhaps slightly heavy handed. Martinessi’s framing, particularly of Chela throughout the course of the film is very telling. The character is regularly shot within door frames, window frames and even behind partially closed doors. This limits her, confining her in the way she seems repressed by her girlfriend, and perhaps by Paraguayan society at large. The natural and dimly lit shots provided by cinematographer Luis Armando Arteaga highlight this framing and the woman’s limited freedoms.
The casting is quite possibly the biggest success of The Heiresses. Ana Brun is astonishing and so subtle, the personification of the phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words”. The way the camera captures the slight nuances of her facial expressions is a revelation. Seasoned actor Irún holds her own and actually overshadows in the scenes she shares with Brun, reflecting the strength and dominance of Chiqui. Ivanova as the hypersexual Angy is sultry and self-assured without flaunting any of the clichés that are too often portrayed in not only adult films but many mainstream ones as well.
If Martinessi and The Heiresses are a sign of what’s to be expected from Paraguayan cinema, then the international film festival community is in for a wild and exciting ride.
Las Herederas (The Heiresses) does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews and interviews from our Berlin Film Festival 2018 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Berlin Film Festival 2018.
Watch the trailer for Las Herederas (The Heiresses) here: